Driver Fitness

When racing, driver fitness cannot be overlooked! We take a detailed look at some tips you can put into practice to keep you performing at your best.

When racing, it is key to maximise your on-track performance with the correct approach to physical fitness! Here are some key areas to target for the next time you look to hit the track!

A common misconception in motorsport is that drivers ‘just sit behind the wheel’.  However, as we all know, drivers can experience a multitude of stresses during competition, such as a much higher heart rate and higher levels of perspiration, which are all key symptoms of heat stress that can impact concentration and cognitive function when needed most!

Alongside the level of fitness required to maintain peak cognitive function, drivers also need to maintain a high level of aerobic fitness as seen with runners, cyclists and triathletes, as maintaining peak performance results in plenty of strain being placed on the body. Alongside maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness for their driving efforts, drivers must also consider the impacts of the following on the body:

  • G-Forces
  • Mental fatigue (Cognitive function)
  • Heat stress
  • Physical endurance (Cardiovascular stresses)
  • Fast reaction and response times
  • Fast reaction and response times

The importance of cognitive function in driver fitness:

Cognitive function is a core part of a racing driver’s fitness checklist, it can often be the difference between making a mistake or pushing for victory, so it is an area that cannot be overlooked. Motorsport relies on sharp reaction times and a mindset crafted to deal with the unpredictability of racing, so what does it take to retain peak cognitive performance as a driver?

John Camilleri, who works closely with several professional racing drivers in the World Endurance Championship, believes that cognitive function can always be continually improved to ensure driver’s can maximise their resistance to the stresses of competition, but being well rested is the key, as stated in his feature for Evo Magazine:

“If you are well rested, your energy levels will be maximised and your cognitive processing will run at an optimal level. You will be able to concentrate for longer and react quicker when on track”.

Alongside ensuring you are as well rested as possible, cognitive function can also be improved by training your reaction times using the Batak illumination board, a tool commonly used by F1 drivers! You can also improve it by establishing the correct breathing techniques and by using the concept of visualisation whilst racing to ensure your mind is fully prepared for what you will be facing when you hit the track, such as corner entry and exit to help you manage your inputs, be it braking or throttle!

The ability to constantly deal with the stimuli of a racing environment is also a key part of cognitive ability, with the need to react without hesitation and delay being imperative. Walero base layers can help to reduce the mental fatigue placed on the body by combating the various impacts of heat stress by lowering your heart rate and reducing perspiration, therefore meaning that your body expends less energy, allowing you to keep your muscle function high by limiting the impacts of dehydration, a key factor in fatigue and reduced cognitive ability whilst racing.

The five pillars of driver fitness

In motorsport, there are five key pillars of physical fitness that summarise what it takes to be physically fit as a driver. It is vitally important to recognise these key components of physical fitness to ensure that you can perform at your very best for longer!

These five key pillars were identified by the UK’s leading motorsport organisation, Motorsport UK, as part of their “Fit To Race” programme and they summarise the 5 key pillars as the 5 S’s below:

  •  STAMINA

Stamina is widely recognised as the ability of the body to resist fatigue whilst performing repetitive high-level intensity work for extended periods of time. In the world of motorsport this means that drivers can perform at a higher level for longer, make fewer mistakes and have more consistent results when competing.

The Walero temperature regulating racewear can play a key role in helping you to perform at your best for longer by using NASA Developed technology, Outlast®, to actively regulate your body’s core temperature and skin microclimate, allowing the wearer to perform better, for longer therefore  reducing the effects of heat stress and fatigue which can dramatically impact your stamina across the course of a race.

Therefore, these benefits mean that less energy is expended on the body producing sweat, which can contribute to improved overall energy utilisation during physical exercise. This therefore means that energy conservation may translate to better-sustained efforts and performance as a result.

  • STRENGTH

This is the ability of your muscles to generate force against resistance. Good overall strength can help prevent or protect against injury. Strength is very important in racing & rallying particularly in the trunk and upper body to combat the forces in action on the body.

Driver’s require high levels of strength to deal with the physical demands of driving a race car, the stresses of G-forces, no matter how big or how small can play a key impact on your performance and reduce how comfortable you are behind the wheel, so training your neck to combat regular G forces and your core muscles to promote stability whilst under the impacts of  lateral force is key.

Walero racewear reducing the sweat loss experienced by the body, means that an athlete can maintain fluid balance more effectively, reducing the risk of dehydration and heat stress, which is vital for maintaining peak performance in the various muscles required to combat the stresses of racing, as they are able to continue performing at their very best for an extended period of time.

  • SPEED

Speed is about the quick movement of our body, including reaction time and accuracy of movement. In motor sport it is all about quick response times, fast feet and rapid hands, excellent hand to eye coordination, as mentioned above with the importance of cognitive function.

Excess heat production during exercise can divert energy away from muscular contractions, affecting performance, slowing your reaction times as a result which impacts your cognitive function heavily. With the Walero racewear enabling you to maintain a lower body temperature, the body can therefore use energy more efficiently for reactive muscle activity rather than heat dissipation.

Lower body temperature can also help maintain optimal enzyme activity within muscles. Enzymes are essential for various metabolic processes, including energy production. When enzymes function optimally, muscles are better able to contract and perform efficiently, increasing your reaction time!

  • SUPPLENESS

This pillar is all about flexibility and range of motion in your joints around the body. Suppleness is important in the lower back and hamstrings, as it allows the driver to be comfortable and secure in the driving position, therefore increasing their comfort and performance as a result over the course of the race distance.

  • SPIRIT

A positive, confident mental approach can help you perform to your very best, however if the mind is not prepared, you can perform poorly. Training your brain helps you get the best from your body and maintaining a positive mental attitude can be a massive boost to your performance inside the cockpit and be a massive benefit to the cognitive function of your body

How to improve your fitness in relation to the 5 S’s:

Firstly, it is important to analyse your training programme – for example, think about how many training sessions you do per week, the length of your sessions and what sports you enjoy alongside racing.  You should also consider any illness or previous injury problems that may affect your training in both the short and long term.

The general recommendation is to train three to five times per week with one full day recovery from all activity. Note: over-training can be damaging rather than helpful.

Here are some recommended activities that can all help to improve your fitness in relation to the 5 S’s curated by Motorsport UK’s ‘Fit To Race’ programme.

    • Swimming: Stamina, whole body, breathing control
    • Cross Country running: Stamina and improving your cardiovascular endurance
    • Cycling: Stamina and strength. Mountain biking is great way to improve your reactions and uses upper and lower body strength accordingly and can build your core muscle stability
    • Circuit Training: Allows you to train strength, stamina and suppleness
    • Rowing: Stamina and strength – important for cardiovascular fitness
    • Racquet Sports: Speed with a focus on improving your short response times
    • Gymnastics: Suppleness and strength, promoting flexibility in your joints
    • Yoga: A great way to focus on the benefits of suppleness and to work on your balance and concentration

At Walero, we understand the importance of ensuring your physical fitness as a driver is never compromised. This is especially true in hot months, when it is just as important to prepare for the challenges of driving a car both physically and mentally, to ensure you are able to perform at your very best, for longer.

Sources used in this blog:

https://www.motorsportuk.org/competitors/competitor-toolkit/fit-to-race/

https://www.evo.co.uk/news/19774/driver-fitness-how-to-train-mentally-and-physically-to-drive-fast-on-track